The War at Home: A Kid's Fight During Deployment
The men and women serving in the U.S. military have faced long and repeated deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past decade.
Central Georgia is home to thousands of military men and women, many of them fathers and mothers.
When deployed across the globe for months their children often suffer the consequences. Shutting down emotionally, becoming discipline problems and more.
Here in Houston County, schools are joining forces with Robins Air Base to arm these students with the tools to win the fight.
"Everything that we do for these children now, is so much more than what they did for children back then," said Karen Harkins, assistant principal of Hilltop Elementary.
Harkins has a personal connection with many of her students. She too was a military kid.
"My father went to Vietnam when I was born," she said.
Now, as an adult and a principal she is working to make it easier for other military families.Tech Sergeant Ronald Megginson is helping out.
He's there as part of the Robins Air Base Deployment School Support Group. He offers coping skills for children whose parents are overseas.
"They know through our stories that other kids are going through the same thing as well," said Megginson.
Right now, the Military Kids Connect website says there are about 1.2 million military children of active duty members worldwide, 80 percent of those children attend public schools. Hilltop Elementary in Bonaire has its fair share.
During their parent's deployment, Harkins says it's not uncommon for frustrations to arise. Elementary aged students tend act out physically and focus less on their schoolwork.
"The behavior issues aren't because the children are acting out to be naughty," she said. "They're acting out because they don't understand their situation and they don't have control over their situation."
By using colors and creativity, Megginson helps students remain positive and offers something extra for them to look forward to.
"It's one of the things they sit down with mom or dad when they come home and say, 'Hey, this is all the great things we did while you were away, let me tell you about all this cool stuff'."
He also says today's military focuses on building a stable home as it does the battlefield.
"This is not the old days of the military," he said. "When mom or dad, mostly dad, went away and they were just there until he came back."
It's a reason why Harkins is happy her students have support that her family didn't have when she was a military child. So they don't have to fight the battle alone.
"Helping them understand that this moment is going to pass and everything will be back to normal eventually."
When Hilltop learns of a parents pending deployment, that student is allow unexcused time off to spend with their parent before they leave. Students are also given time off when their parent returns so they can strengthen their bond.